Day 9: Soba noodles
Soba is one of Japan’s best known types of noodle and has been eaten in the country for centuries. It is slightly smaller than the other traditional noodle, udon, but the key difference is what it is made from. To be a true soba noodle it must be mainly buckwheat.
Now, the interesting thing about soba noodles is the range of price you’ll find for something that seems so simple. You can buy soba for just a few hundred yen (a few dollars) at train stations or vendors with just windows on the street. But you can also pay tens of thousands of yen (hundred of dollars) to eat soba at some of the fanciest restaurants in Japan.
The reason for such a wide spectrum is because soba is an important traditional food and carries with it a lot of heritage. It can be a quick snack on your way to the train or it can be part of an elaborate tea ceremony or a representation of the long life you wish to have.
As far as having a long life goes, soba noodles could actually help you. It’s an extremely healthy dish full of protein, vitamins, antioxidants and all sorts of other great buckwheat goodness. It’s one of the reasons it was eaten so much hundreds of years ago – to help fight diseases and malnutrition.
Although it’s easy to buy a bowl of hot soba anywhere in Japan these days, traditionally the noodles are eaten cold and with a dipping sauce. In this case, the soba should be served on a bamboo tray, picked up with chopsticks, dipped a third of the way into the sauce and then eaten straight from the chopsticks.
The sauce is made from dashi, mirin and sweet soy sauce. It can then have things added in. For the dish I ate, my sauce came with a tempura prawn. It gave the sauce a slightly different taste and was then a nice little addition at the end of the meal.
This meal of soba noodles with the sauce and the prawn cost 880 yen (US$8.90) at a standard lunch restaurant in the Iidabashi suburb of Tokyo.
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